The prison sentence of Life Without the Possibility of Parole has the same intent as the Death Penalty. This sentence was created for people to die in prison. Not at the hands of the government as happens with the Death Penalty. Not painlessly with the use of a lethal dose of drugs at a designated time. But after years of being locked away in prison, after years of watching family and friends move on or pass away. After years, decades, of being alone and growing old. Years of fighting off illness and disease at the government’s expense in the name of keeping you alive. All so you can suffer just a little longer in your old age. Suffering all alone. This is the intent of Life Without the Possibility of Parole (LWOP)This is the sentence given to thousands. A sentence that may actually be worse than the Death Penalty.
Such a harsh and unforgiving sentence should be saved for the absolute worst of criminal offenders. Men and women who are deemed to be so far beyond help there is no chance of them ever being rehabilitated. But with crime rates, especially violent crime rates declining across the U.S why is the rate of individuals being sentenced to LWOP increasing? Clearly this sentence is not reserved for just the absolute worst.
How many Americans are even aware of LWOP sentences? Of those who are, how many are aware of Juveniles being sentenced to LWOP? Yes that’s right, Juvenile LWOP (JLWOP) Children are being sentenced to die in prison in the United States of America. The vast majority are in the state of California. Now if some adults are unaware that children can be sentenced to JWLOP, to die in prison; how many actual juveniles are aware of this? If you have kids under the age of 18 are they aware of this? It’s amazing how unaware we are of what is happening right in our own backyards. If people were made more aware of it, maybe they would actually care or do something.
I have learned a lot over the past 11 years. One is that children can be sentenced to die in prison. Another is that a child will be treated as a hardened adult criminal in a court of law. Not only will they be treated as an adult; their youth, inexperience, immaturity, their lack of knowledge and innocent trust of the judicial system will be taken advantage of at every turn.
I trusted the judicial system would do what is right. There was no doubt in my mind that I would be given a fair and proper trial. Instead, I was taken advantage of all throughout the legal proceedings of my case and completely unaware of it at the time. It was the responsibility of my trial defense counsel to protect me, to defend me against blatant abuses of power and clear prosecutorial misconduct committed by the prosecutor. He did nothing to protect me and has since provided a 19 page declaration under the penalty of perjury stating all the ways that he failed to protect me. He even stated that he chose not to because he knew the judge would overrule any objection he made, giving up without even trying to defend me at trial. As a juvenile I was sentenced to Life Without the Possibility of Parole.
written by Sean O’Brien